Inmates population in Nigerian prisons hits 63,000 —FG •Says 72% inmates awaiting trial •As UN offers assistance on prison decongestion

THE Federal Government has revealed that total inmates population in Nigerian prisons stands at 63,000, with about 45, 263 of them awaiting trial.

Government has, however, entered into partnership with the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and concluded plans to drastically reduce overpopulation in most of the prison yards across the country.

Minister of Interior, Lieutenant-General Abdulrahman Dambazzau (retd) and UNODC Country Representative,  Ms. Christina Albertin, made the disclosure on Tuesday, in Abuja, at a workshop on effective implementation of non-custodial measures in Nigeria.

The partnership was also aimed at reducing the incessant jailbreaks recoded in some prisons across the country.

The current Prisons Service records as of August 29, showed that a total inmates population was 63, 000, with 17,897 convicted (28 per cent), while 45, 263 (72 per cent) were awaiting trial.

Albertin said the justice project aimed at supporting improvement prison conditions across the country was being funded by the European Union and being implemented at the federal level and other nine states.

The focal states, according to her included Anambra, Bayelsal, Benue, Cross River, Imo, Kastina, Lagos, Osun and Yobe.

The project, she said “is aimed at supporting improvement of government at the federal and state levels, with the aim of enhancing the functioning of the justice sector, including reducing undue delays, improving prison conditions and reducing backlogs.

“Backlogs and undue delays in the trial of criminal cases and unresolving civil disputes remain key problems in the justice sector and is one of the main causes of very high number of awaiting trail detainees in prisons across Nigeria.”

Dambazzau explained the non-custodial measure was primarily designed for minor crimes or other special category of prisoners without restriction of confinement in prison custody.

He added that “advantages of non-custodial measures includes saving the offenders from the trauma of imprisonment, preventing further contamination in criminalities through the prison informal socialisation process, offering the opportunity for genuine penitence, promoting effective reintegration of offenders and reducing the financial burden on government in the administration of criminal justice.”

The minister, however, expressed confidence that with the range of expertise gathered at the workshop, feasible ways of applying measures as widely as possible within the confines of the law would be provided.